It didn't take long for the fate of this game to pretty much be sealed. Early in the game as Petr Prucha entered the offensive zone he was hit hard by James Neal, forcing his head against the boards and knocking him out. Now without a replay currently available we can really only rely on different fans recolection of what happened based on the replay shown on TV and at the arena. Of course Dallas fans say "It was shoulder on shoulder" Or "Blame the seamless glass!". While Phoenix fans wish for James Neal to be shot out of a cannon towards the end boards. Or say that Neal used his elbow. Or state that they think that James Neal is a "Fu----g dirty b---h", which only half of is correct. (You choose which half) The fact is that if Martin Hanzal's hit from the night before warranted 5 minutes for boarding and a game misconduct, then so was Neal's hit which was much more violent and caught a player in a more vulnerable position.
Prucha had already gotten rid of the puck. He was in a vulnerable position. The hit was unnecessary. Period. The shame is that there wasn't a call in the game. I guess that makes it a clean hit right? Not really. James Wisnewski's hit on Shane Doan earlier this year wasn't penalty worthy in the game, but he got suspended for 2 games. Am I saying that he should get suspended? I'm not sure yet. I saw it live, and quickly on replay. I did see Neal get his elbow up. I saw him come from behind to make the hit. I saw Prucha get rid of the puck way before the hit. If you don't think it was dirty, that's fine, but it sure as hell wasn't clean either.
In any event, Prucha was down for 7 minutes not moving. EMTs and trainers stabilized his head and strapped him to a board to be stretchered out. He was taken to a local hospital to be checked out. After the game he was apparently able to return to the arena. He's listed as day-to-day with an "Upper body injury" but it's certainly a concussion.
That set the tone for the entirety of the game. The Coyotes lost focus on the game itself and for the remainder of the first period overdid every hit. They all wanted some measure of payback on Neal and the Stars. Vernon Fiddler was tying to hit everyone. Martin Hanzal took Neal on in a fight and actually did alright, landing several good punches. Paul Bissonnette fought Krys Barch twice, and looked like he wanted to go several more times. It turned from being a game about actually winning into a game that was just about getting revenge. By the time the Coyotes had settled down it was too late. The passing was all over, the chances weren't all that great, the focus in every area of the game was just gone. This is something the Coyotes are going to have to learn to deal with as that's what the Playoffs look like. guys will get hit hard. They might get knocked out of a game, you have to have laser like focus at times, even when you may not want to.
Basically I give all the credit to the Coyotes imploding and none to the Stars for much of anything. Marty Turco may as well be lumped in with Neal for being a punk. Not satisfied to just let Shane Doan get up and skate away after getting knocked down in the crease. He got a roughing call for hitting Doan several times including once in the head. The Coyotes didn't take any quality shots and the bounces didn't go their way. The Stars got a couple lucky bounces and got one quality goal though the scoreboard said 3-0.
While I'm ranting, what's up with the Stars getting the Coyotes on the back end of the back-to-backs all the time? 4 times this season that situation came up. The brilliant NHL schedule makers couldn't shift one or two of those around just to make it a little more even? Or at least have the Stars get back-to-back games too? (That will happen for the 4th one in March). I get that the schedule is a complicated thing, but I assume that that's what these people get paid to do and they should maybe be a little good at it. Though this is the NHL and I guess that would be assuming an awful lot.
Was James Neal's hit on Petr Prucha unnecessary?
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